Meridith McNeal

A bit about drawing with pen and ink

I love pen and ink.  Not just any old pen and ink, but old-fashioned metal nibs and jars of true black “India” ink.  With these tools I find I can make drawings that seem to vibrate or look like rich textured velvet.

Gatto della Casa, 2009, Nib pen and ink on paper, 34x34”

I run the Rush Education Programs.  We have our students, who are between the ages of 7-21 years old, use true artists' materials.  Often Rush Teaching Artists lead classes based on their own works.  In my classes I have found that my students also love working in nib pen and ink. 

My students drawing with pen and ink

It does take a bit of practice to get the hang of it.  For example, the nib actually has a direction (unlike a pen, pencil or marker that can be used in any which way).  There is also the drip factor to consider.  I actually like the look of drips and blots on my own works, but you have to be careful about how much ink is on the pen if you don’t want too many drips. It's also a good idea to protect the things around you -- for example, I use paper towel along the wall below my work.   My students will often specifically request to work with these tools.  The results are splendid. 

Skating Party, 2008 by Rush Kids Christopher and Deana ages 10 & 11

I tried pen and ink when I was in school but had sort of forgotten about it.  Then in 2007 I began working on a site-specific exhibition to be housed in Cannon’s Walk, an 18th century brick house in lower Manhattan, NYC.  It is important to me that there is a reason behind the materials I use for any given project.  I feel it brings me further into the project and makes the artwork itself more successful.  So, for the Cannon’s Walk Project Signora della Casa, the history and time period of the place, along with the proximity to an 18th century printer and stationary shop, led me to work with nib pen and ink again.

Signora della Casa: Lace Dress, 2008, nib pen and ink on paper, 62x45" 

When the funding was not available to support the full project, I did a very different site-specific installation for Cannon’s Walk called When We Were Six.  I have not shown the Signora della Casa drawings yet.  Perhaps because they were not headed to a specific exhibition, I allowed myself to continue with pen and ink with other work.

Drawing Signora della Casa Chaise

Signora della Casa: Chaise, 2009, nib pen and ink on paper, 55x82”

Then, while in residence at The American Academy in Rome in the spring 2009, I was working in a studio on the site where the astronomer Galileo Galilee first set up his telescope in Rome.  He also had a dinner party on the site.  This fascinating bit of history became the springboard for my exhibition, In The Footsteps of the Starry Messenger, on view at Figureworks, Brooklyn NY January - February 2010.  Pen and ink seemed to me to be perfect for to this project as well.  The work is about all of the people who have been in that particular space and what we have done there.  I chose to draw shoes to represent the people themselves.  The exhibition will include pen and ink drawings, some painted in watercolor, of Roman shoes, two cats, Galileo related images, as well as drawings that relate to food and food preparation. 

Paisley Shoes, 2009, nib pen, ink and watercolor on paper, 15x15”

La Mia Cucina a Roma, in progress in my Brooklyn studio, 2009

La Mia Cucina a Roma, 2009-2010, nib pen and ink, 74x55”

While I was in Rome, I was fortunate to be able to create an exhibition for a small grocery store called Santi’s.  Like many Roman shops, the store has three window boxes that look out onto the street.  I created three large pen, ink and watercolor drawings of the items in the shop.  On either end of the display, the items depicted were in my kitchen and studio in Rome.  The center drawing is of the shop itself.  Because of its location on a busy street in Rome, I think more people have seen my work at Santi’s than in any other exhibition I have ever done!


Golose Necessità, Santi, Roma, Italia


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